Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Collins Hill junior Sean Russell is a two-time state champion and is ranked No. 5 nationally at 113 pounds.
THE RUSSELL FILE
Who: Sean Russell
School: Collins Hill
Favorite movie: "Never Back Down"
Favorite sports team: Dallas Cowboys
Dream job: Personal trainer
-- Two-time Class AAAAA state champion
-- Ranked No. 5 in the nation at 113 pounds by Amateur Wrestling News
-- Has a 135-10 career record, which includes only one loss to a Georgia opponent
-- Was an eight-time youth state champion, a Georgia record
-- Father George was a state runner-up at Berkmar in 1978
-- Has drawn college interest from N.C. State, Old Dominion and Tennessee-Chattanooga
Sean Russell still remembers sitting in the Gwinnett Arena a few years ago as a middle schooler watching the state wrestling tournament.
McEachern's Brandon Westerman won his fourth-straight state title and that's when Russell made up his mind of what he's going to do in high school.
"I remember coming to watch high school wrestling and everybody talked about state championships and I wanted to win four," said Russell, a junior at Collins Hill. "I always thought that was really cool and I wanted to do it."
Russell is a two-time state champion and if the first half of the season is any indication, he's on his way to a third state title.
Russell holds a 31-3 record this season with his only losses coming to nationally ranked wrestlers.
"I've had a good season so far, I just hope to keep it up," Russell said.
Russell downplayed his success this year, which includes several wins over nationally ranked wrestlers at out-of-state tournaments.
"He's wrestling great. He's beat some highly ranked kids," Collins Hill coach Josh Stephen said.
Stephen isn't surprised by Russell's success, considering he came into high school as a decorated youth wrestler. His father George, who was a state runner-up at Berkmar in 1989 and wrestled at Gardner-Webb University, had Russell wrestling at age 4.
He won a Georgia record eight-straight youth state titles and traveled the country winning numerous tournaments.
"I knew he was a youth stud nationally coming in," Stephen said.
Russell has continued his success at the high school level. He posted a 54-5 record as a freshman and a 50-2 record as a sophomore on his way to winning a pair of state titles. What's even more impressive is he's done that wrestling at some of the nation's toughest tournaments like the Midwest Classic in Kansas City, the Powerade Invitational and The Clash.
"He's beaten some really good kids," Stephen said.
Russell, who is ranked No. 5 nationally at 113 pounds, is able to wrestle at a high level every day in practice thanks to his drill partner Ryan Millhof, who is ranked No. 7 at 120 pounds.
Millhof is the only Georgia wrestler to beat Russell in high school. The two faced as freshman in the state sectional when Millhof was at Archer. They met again in the state finals when Russell won his first state championship.
"Ryan is an awesome drill partner and we get after it every day," Russell said. "I couldn't ask for a better drill partner."
Outside of the Collins Hill wrestling room, Russell is rarely tested when it comes to in-state matches. But he manages to keep his competitive edge by having his goal of four state titles in his mind.
"You definitely want to dominant and show people you're better," Russell said. "You can never be good enough is the way I look at it."
In Collins Hill's rich history, only one wrestler has won four state titles in a row.
Tyler Parker did in 2002-05 and Dacula's Paul Stansbury (2000-03) and Parkview's Scott Hage (1988-91) are the only other Gwinnett wrestlers to reach the feat.
According to the Georgia High School Association, only 23 wrestlers have won four state titles in the more than 50 years of the sport in Georgia.
It's a goal Russell feels will cement his legacy as one of the state's all-time wrestlers.
"I definitely have to finish it out with four," Russell said. "That's the goal and I want to be rated No. 1 in the country next year. If I do that then I definitely feel I'll fulfill my expectations."